The Pinballs is a 1976 young adult novel by American author Betsy Byars. The story is about three foster children, Carlie, Harvey and Thomas J., who have been taken in by the Masons, a couple who have cared for many other foster children in the past in also have some personal problems . Carlie compares the children to pinballs, controlled by external forces and at the mercy of fate. It won the 1977Josette Frank Award, the 1980 William Allen White Children's Book Award, and the 1980 California Young Reader Medal.
In 1977, the book was made into an episode of the ABC After school Special series, starring Kristy McNichol, Johnny Doran and Sparky Marcus as the three children.
Three kids by the name of Carlie, Harvey, and Thomas J.(For Jefferson) go to live at a foster home with Mr. and Mrs. Mason, an infertile couple. The Masons have been foster parents for 17 kids already. Carlie thinks it's a stupid place and is quite skeptical. But she has to stay there until her mother and her stepfather work out their problems. Two other children arrive: Harvey, who has broken legs and Thomas J., who has grown up with two very old twin sisters who in front of the farmhouse when he was very young. The twins are now both in the hospital. Thomas J. isn't unhappy, but has to learn how to express himself. He gets help from Mr Mason. Harvey is very unhappy and needs the others badly, although he has trouble admitting that. Eventually he confesses his father accidentally ran over his legs with his car (at first he told everyone he was a quarterback and got tackled too hard). He argues with his dad about his mother, who lives in a commune. His father denies that he ever wrote Harvey back. Harvey has a habit of making lists of the things that bother him. Carlie at first feels neglected. She thinks about running away, but slowly changes her mind. Carlie takes the decision to take her fate in her own hands, and stop being a defenseless pinball. When Harvey is in the hospital, Carlie and Thomas J. give him a puppy for his birthday, which gets him through the pain. Carlie sees they are not pin balls, because pin balls can't control where they are going, the children can. All three children start to take control of their lives. Although Carlie still throws out a few insults, the children are now much better friends.